SANTA MONICA (CBSLA.com) — Frances Armantrout nearly lost her life giving birth to her daughter, but she credits her survival to her hospital’s emergency protocol and blood supply.
“I knew she was OK when I woke up, but I’m glad I could be here,” says the mother of two, who is still emotional knowing that giving birth almost cost her her life. “[I’m] really, really grateful that I could come home to my two babies and my family.”
Armantrout scheduled the delivery of her second child, Chloe, by Caesarian section at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica.
Dr. Maria Ottavi successfully delivered the infant but, moments later, Armantrout realized something wasn’t right.
“People were talking a little quicker, it became more scary when I heard talk about blood. I said a prayer and then I was knocked out.”
“The blood loss was just so rapid, and honestly, in my career I’ve never seen anything like it,” Ottavi said.
The doctor didn’t know that Armantrout had a condition called placenta increta, where the placenta embeds itself into the uterus.
‘There’s a whole lot of blood vessels, so that everything you touched was bleeding,” Ottavi said.
The doctor said the two units of blood in the room were nowhere near enough to treat Armantrout.
So, Ottavi chose to activate the hospital’s mass transfusion protocol, which was less than a year old and had never been used at this community hospital.
When activated, it means all hands on deck — from the blood bank to surgeons.
“It becomes a priority for the whole hospital. The operating room shuts down. No new cases are started,” Ottavi said of the protocol.
Armantrout’s husband, Kyle, waited anxiously during the nearly six hours his wife was in the operating room.
“It was getting more grave each time they came in. I was actually getting the impression they were waiting for someone to be with me to tell me that she died,” Kyle Armantrout said.
“Dr. Ottavi came out. There were no words, we just started crying and hugging each other,” Armantrout’s husband said.
Armantrout survived, even though her heart had stopped pumping at one point.
Ottavi credits the medical team assisting her, as well as the hospital. She said having the 18 units of blood she needed made all the difference in this life-or-death situation.
Placenta increta reportedly affects one in 533 pregnancies.
“The reason we are seeing more of this is patients are having more surgery before having babies. For Frances, for instance, she had one previous C-section,” Ottavi said.
She also said mothers in Los Angeles are statistically older, and, after 35 years old, are less able to handle blood loss.
“A lot of moms delay their child bearing. It’s not a bad thing, but there are consequences to that,” the doctor said.
“The miracle that day wasn’t Chloe, it was Frances. She was the miracle that was not expected,” Ottavi said.
Now, Frances and Kyle Armantrout said they can’t express enough their thanks to St. John’s Hospital.
They encourage others to donate blood so that other patients can survive after having lost an extensive amount of blood.
“You’ve got to donate. This is what you get from it — the ability to do these things,” Kyle Armantrout said.
“I’m grateful that those who donate, and donate regularly. It was there for me when I needed it, and it’s there for other mommies, too,” his wife said.